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Churchill Downs hopes cooking game heats up Big Fish revenue

Analysts discussed Churchill Downs Inc., second-quarter profits Thursday. They are up 12 percent compared to the same quarter of 2016, to $78.3 million. The gains came largely from strong performance in betting and viewership for the annual Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks in May. In this file photo, Always Dreaming with John R. Velazquez up at the sixteenth pole on his way to winning the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs earlier this year.
Analysts discussed Churchill Downs Inc., second-quarter profits Thursday. They are up 12 percent compared to the same quarter of 2016, to $78.3 million. The gains came largely from strong performance in betting and viewership for the annual Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks in May. In this file photo, Always Dreaming with John R. Velazquez up at the sixteenth pole on his way to winning the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs earlier this year.

Churchill Downs Inc. is turning up the heat on its Big Fish Games division, with the launch in June of a new game called Cooking Craze, that company officials said is already doing better than its popular Gummy Drop was at this stage.

The news came in a conference call on Thursday with analysts to discuss second-quarter profits, which were up 12 percent compared to the same quarter of 2016, to $78.3 million. The gains came largely from strong performance in betting and viewership for the annual Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks in May, despite what Churchill called “truly miserable weather.”

One division not doing as well: Big Fish Games. CEO Bill Carstanjen pointed out that bookings, or in-game purchases, were up slightly overall compared to the first quarter of the year.

But they were still down compared to the second quarter of 2016, leading analysts to ask probing questions about Churchill’s strategy regarding the online gaming company.

The division continues to produce revenue and Churchill “is on the right path,” Carstanjen said

Company executives said they have several new games either soft launching or in the pipeline for later this year.

“We launched Cooking Craze at end of June; it’s a time management game,” he said. “Early metrics suggest this game has great potential.”

He said they are already seeing an average of 1 million daily users, with $140,000 in daily bookings.

“We’re pretty excited about this one,” he said.

And Big Fish also is launching, through the Apple store, a subscription service, akin to Netflix but for its games, that is expected to draw in a new customers.

A relaunched Jackpot Magic Slots is climbing the social casino ranks, and they are incorporating team and tournament play social aspects that have proven popular in Big Fish Casino, Carstanjen said.

Also, he was asked about Churchill Downs’ announced plans for a $60 million historical racing facility to be built in Louisville. The company is developing its own games platform, which Carstanjen said they expect to be “an innovative and competitive product in the Louisville market,” which has a nearby casino with video slots. He did not discuss revenue projections.

Asked if Churchill would like to have more than one historical racing site, Carstanjen said that he couldn’t say much.

“It’s an interesting and fair question but at this point we don’t really have anything else we can add to our discussion on historical racing,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of energy, time and creative thinking into (it) ... but other than confirming we would have those aspirations, there isn’t anything specific we can offer at this point.”

Carstanjen said Churchill would say more in the third quarter about the historical racing project, and would have news later this year on Churchill Downs plans for parking and traffic changes for the Louisville racetrack.

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